Oh what a dilemma Liverpool fans have when they face Chelsea at Anfield this coming Sunday.
Win, and take a step closer to that all important and lucrative fourth place finish that manager Rafa Benitez has guaranteed to fans, but ultimately hand Manchester United their 19th title.
Lose, and forget playing Champions League football next season, but in all certainty stop Manchester United winning title number 19.
Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Fans will be divided, for sure. But players and the management of Liverpool Football Club will most likely not, for they go into each game to win and there will be no question that on Sunday against Chelsea, Liverpool will be looking to do just that.
This match is pivotal to the seasons of both clubs. But, the view from Anfield is slightly more dire.
The prospect of having to struggle for a Champions League spot this season, with all the lucrative benefits that go along with it, was not something that crossed any Liverpool fan’s radar; in fact it was not even a blip on the horizon twelve months ago.
Victory over Chelsea will by no means guarantee that Anfield will once again be graced by the giants of the European game. This will depend on the results of Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa.
To attempt to predict the outcomes of the final games left for these other three contenders, thereby predicting who will ultimately be hosting Champions League matches next season is a lottery. The "what-ifs" and the unpredictability of teams this season has rendered such an exercise to be nothing more than "shots in the dark."
Sitting there trying to go through all the permutations is not what Rafa Benitez will be doing. He will only be focused on giving us what he guaranteed not so long ago.
The only prediction that is not under any question is that Liverpool’s encounter against Chelsea will undoubtedly be the most important game in the club’s recent history, and most certainly in Benitez’s.
It is ironic that such a crucial game is against Chelsea, a foe with whom the Reds have had their most momentous battles in recent times. What is more ironic is that these tussles were in the very competition that Liverpool are hoping their victory on Sunday will help secure their place in.
What marks this encounter as even more critical is the position of Benitez. If Liverpool are not victorious against Chelsea, which will effectively end Rafa’s guarantee, will he even be at Anfield for the following season?
He may well be tempted to fall on his sword and honourably exit the corridors of Anfield, or the club might finally think that he cannot take them any further and sack him.
Add to this already complex plot the fact that Liverpool Football Club is in the world’s shop window. It is quite possible that lack of Champions League football will devalue the club in the market place, resulting in no new investors in the short term.
To say a victory against Chelsea is important to the future of the club and its manager is grossly understating it. Victory is essential.
The enormity of this Sunday’s clash cannot not be reduced in any way; all the plots and sub-plots have only elevated it to be, not only the match that defines Liverpool’s current season, but also that of the future of the manager and maybe even the long term stability of the club.
Some fans may well be facing a dilemma and may well feel like being stuck between a rock and a hard place, but rest assured Benitez and his players will not be.
For them anything less than a victory would be a disaster, for this season and for seasons to come.
If a victory for the Reds ends Chelsea’s title ambitions and ultimately leads to Manchester United clinching the title that takes them beyond Liverpool’s haul, then so be it. For failure may set Liverpool Football Club so far back that seeing Manchester United overhaul them may become the least of their worries.
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